In these posts, we have talked about how growing native plants is an important part of the prairie restoration occurring on campus, but we have never gone into detail of which native plants we have introduced to the area.

To choose the plants that would be incorporated into our restoration, we considered what species grew in the prairie fragments in Fish Creek Provincial Park, and could tolerate the heat, direct sun, and dry conditions present at our restoration site.

Through this process, we decided to plant seedlings of three different grasses: blue grama, needle-and-thread, and junegrass. We also seeded these grasses, and four others: Northern wheatgrass, Western wheatgrass, slender wheatgrass, and sandgrass. For flowers, we planted seedlings of four different species: prairie crocus, stiff sunflower, blue flax, and harebells.

The grass species we introduced each serves a purpose to the ecosystem. Blue grama, needle and thread, and junegrass are all bunch grasses that help the soil retain water. The wheatgrasses grow low to the ground and form sod, providing ground cover which prevents invasion of non-native species and stabilises the soil. Sandgrass, which can grow up to six feet tall, provides accessible food for local herbivores, especially in the winter months.

The flowers planted also provide important services, most notably that their blooms favour the native pollinators of the area. We choose flowers that bloom from May to September, so that our site provides resources to pollinators all through spring and summer. The flowers also provide food for the local ground squirrel population, as we discovered when they ate all our freshly planted harebells!

If you would like to learn more about prairie restoration, we are holding an educational event Sunday, August 21st that focuses on native plants. If you are interested in attending, you can sign up here. We hope to see you there!